“You’re asking for rights? Do you know what caste you belong to?,” the Sarpanch (Village Head) reminded Samaru Vanvashi, a Dalit resident of Bisapur village in Uttar Pradesh.
Samaru had approached the Sarpanch because he had not been paid his NREGA salary since 2014 and had not received his rationed supply for crops. He was beaten up for this simple, essential request because he stood up for his rights to food and wages. Samaru’s wife and sister-in-law went to the Sarpanch’s house to request the same, but they too faced a harsh discrimination. “They held us and assaulted us with sticks,” says Urmila, Samaru’s wife.
“The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.” promises Article 46 of the Indian Constitution. But in India, these weaker sections are abused and discriminated every day – in the society, at work, in educational institutes, to name a few. It is then that one is forced to think if the words in the constitution were just words.
Uttar Pradesh where this incident took place is not new to Dalit atrocities and discrimination. With 20 per cent of India’s Dalit population, U.P. accounts for 17 percent of the crimes against them states the data from National Commission for Scheduled Castes(NCSC). The numbers have increased from 7078 in 2013 to 8946 in 2015.
Back in Bisapur, Samaru, afraid for the safety of his family complained about the Sarpanch’s acts to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM). “I had fled our house in fear of violence,” says Samaru. When the SDM sent two policemen to his house, their behaviour was no better than the rest. They abused the family and even threatened the use of force.
According to the amendments to the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, passed by Parliament in 2015, made several critical changes. Among the new offences added were the preventing SCs/STs from using common property resources, from entering any places of public worship, and from entering an education or health institution. In a case of any violation, the new law said that the courts would presume unless proved otherwise that the accused non-SC/ST person was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim.
But Samaru is still awaiting justice. “Our lives are threatened because we are asking for food. It is our right, right?,” questions Samaru.
Samaru and his family have simple needs. “We just want food,” repeats his wife. Do you want to help this family? Call the District Magistrate of the district on +91-9454417568 and demand the family gets ration and justice.
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Anil Kumar.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.